February 18, 2013 [LINK / comment]

Short-eared Owls in Swoope!

There have been quite a few reports of Short-eared Owls in the Swoope area recently, and I finally managed to get out there just after 5:00 this afternoon to take a look. The place in question is at the intersection of Livick Road and Cattleman's Road, rolling open pasture land with a few scattered trees here and there. Two birders who had driven all the way from Front Royal were already there when I arrived, and three others from nearer places arrived soon thereafter.

Before long, we saw a few Northern Harriers swooping (!) low across the pastures, including one or two male "gray ghosts." They didn't come very close, however, and there wasn't much else to see as the sun dipped behind the mountains to the west. It was getting pretty chilly, but I came prepared for the frigid vigil with polypropylene undergarments and wool socks. Finally, somebody spotted a Short-eared Owl in a field about 250 yards away, and a second one soon landed in the same area. So, we all got in our vehicles, drove a short distance, and I was able to get close enough (40-50 yards) for an adequate photo, making the effort all worthwhile. I probably could have gotten much better quality if the manual focus on my new camera wasn't so hard to adjust, and if the sun had not yet gone down.

That was about two miles from where I had seen several Short-eared Owls in February 2004. After a brief glance at my records, that may have been the last time I have seen that particular species, but further digging may be necessary to be sure.

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl, in a field next to Livick Road, in Swoope.